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Lisa Woods had been waiting and watching intently for when widespread public transportation would become a reality in Lancaster County.
On Thursday, Nov. 29, her wishes came true as Lancaster Area Ride Service (LARS) announced a major expansion of its program, which began in 2009.
Woods, service coordinator for Lancaster Manor Apartments, said many residents there have benefited from LARS in the past three years. Without it, she said, they would have had difficulty traveling long distances from the apartment complex, which houses people age 62 and older.
“It’s been a blessing,” Woods said. “I got people who would not make appointments. Without LAPS, I don’t know what they'd do.”
When LARS began in 2009, it was established as a non-emergency medical transportation system, taking Lancaster County residents to appointments as far as Columbia.
But now, all of the general public will be able to use to service. LARS officials and local leaders gathered inside the County Administrator Building on Thursday to discuss the expansion.
“The scope of service is broader,” said Sally Sherrin, executive director of the Lancaster County Council on Aging, which operates LARS. “We can take (residents) where they need to go maintain their independence.”
J. Marion Sims Foundation provided the grant money for LARS to run over the past three years. Now S.C. Department of Transportation and Lancaster County are funding the system.
Jim Morton, president of the J. Marion Sims Foundation, shared data about LARS’ usefulness.
A feasibility study found that 13,000 Lancaster County residents could benefit from the system. Since its inception, more than 165,000 miles have been driven, he said.
“The numbers were compelling,” Morton said.
“It has been a tremendous asset to Lancaster County. It improves the quality of life,” Lancaster County Council Chairwoman Kathy Sistare said. “The county is very proud to be a sponsor.”
Here are some facts and tidbits about the expanded LARS service:
• You must be 18 or older to ride alone.
• Trips within Lancaster County are $2 each way. To travel to and from Rock Hill, it will cost $5 each way. And for tips to and from Charlotte or Columbia, the fare is $10 each way.
• All LARS drivers are trained in defensive, CPR, first aid, customer assistance and passenger sensitivity.
• There are 14 vehicles in the LARS fleet, which includes several buses.
• The only pets allowed on LARS vehicles are those licensed as service animals. Riders must make arrangements for service animals when making reservations.
• Riders are encouraged to limit the type and number of items they carry on LARS vehicles. Items cannot take up a seat and must be placed on the floor.
• LARS asks interested riders to schedule appointments at least three days in advance.
• Medicaid recipients will continue to call 866-831-4120 to schedule transportation.
For more information about LARS or to make traveling reservations, call (803) 285-6956 or visit www.lancastercoa.org.
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152